Don't Take it Personally
By Jean Charles
The best-selling book, The Four Agreements by don Miguel
Ruiz is an insightful little book with a message that is
simple and yet profound. The author invites the reader to
adopt a code of conduct that includes four agreements - "Be
impeccable With Your Word, "Don't Take Anything Personally,
Never Assume Anything, and Always Do Your Best"
This article is about the second agreement "Don't take
Great advice, isn't it? The problem is, most of us take
criticism or rejection very personally. When someone says to
us "You are �K(fill in the blank), we may take it as the
truth. Actually their comment is about them and their
perception of you and has nothing to do with who or what you
The following are some thoughts to keep in mind the next
time you receive harsh comments:
1. It's not about you. When people make insulting or
vicious remarks to you, it's a reflection of what's going on
inside of them. You are simply the target at the moment.
Harsh criticism is usually brought on by one or more of the
a) Ego. Some people will criticize you to boost their
own ego. They pull you down a few pegs so that they'll feel
superior to you.
b) Impatience. Impatient people are also likely to
make insulting remarks that are out of proportion to the
situation. For instance, if an impatient person feels you
should complete a task in 5 seconds - and you take 10 -
you'll hear something like, "Are you a moron?" Clearly, this
has nothing to do with you.
c) Childhood Influences. Many people who criticize
you without regard to your feelings grew up in an
environment where they were criticized harshly. They are
simply repeating the pattern.
Accept the fact that people from all of these categories
will cross your path at times.
2. Learn from it. In most cases, you can learn from
criticism and rejection. Although the comments may be harsh
or exaggerated, there may be some truth to be found.
For example, if you receive negative comments on a
Performance Review at work, see it as an opportunity for
improvement. Consider the comments objectively and look for
the lessons. Take the necessary actions to improve your job
performance. If you truly believe you are doing your best,
these actions could include looking for a job that better
suits your talents.
3. Laugh about it. After you get over the initial
shock of a critical remark, allow yourself to have a good
laugh! It reduces the tension and puts things back in
We did Patient Satisfaction Questionnaires in my former
Healthcare company. One question asked about the reading
material in the waiting room. The funniest responses were
the ones that rated the selection as poor and then stated in
the very next answer that the person had waited 0 (zero)
minutes in the waiting room.
4. Don't let anyone stop you from pursuing what you
want to achieve. Life will test you to see how serious you
are about pursuing a particular path. Sooner or later,
you'll face negative feedback. When you do, remember not to
let anyone crush your dream.
If you are doing what you want to do (and aren't hurting
anyone else), the only question to ask yourself is: Am I
doing the best I could in this situation? You can't ask
yourself to do more than your best.
5. Give what you want to receive. If you want others
to be less critical of you, then you must be considerate of
the feelings of others. We all have to provide feedback and
criticism at times and probably overdo it sometimes. We say
things that we wouldn't want others to say to us. We get
impatient and forget that it took us time to learn the very
things we're expecting others to perform perfectly right
Don Miguel Ruiz gave some great advice when he said that we
shouldn't take anything personally. Yet, it is a very
difficult concept to put into practice. My hope is that by
remembering the above thoughts, you can greatly reduce the
amount of time and energy you spend taking things